I recently got word from my school that we wouldn’t be back before April 13th. I have doubts that we will even return the 14th, but only time will tell. This means no students, no hands on learning, no art show, so many other cancellations of events and what we all consider the norm, gone. We are now transitioning to distance learning,
Just two weeks ago I walked the line between is this really serious? and will we actually have school cancellations due to an illness? It only took until the end of that week to realize the severity of the situation we are in. I immediately began planning how I could continue to push art into the lives of my students during this, because at a time like this an outlet for our feelings is as important as hand washing (although wash your hands FIRST then start the creative outlet for your mental health).
What is most important to me is that we don’t stop art. That my students continue to flex their creative muscles in this time of isolation. So what do I do? What do educators do? How do we continue to provide for our students without having a face-to-face with them? These questions are what pushed me into the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, I was long out of denial, it was time to take action.
Luckily, I have a project that fits well into distance learning, visual journals. Before my students left I had them take their visual journals home. If you have not started this project, all your students need is a used hardback book that they (and their family members) no longer want. If a paperback is all they have, use it! If a sketchbook or notebook is all they have, give it a go! If they have no bound book option, use a piece of paper. The most important part is getting started and making something.
MY DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN
For the next two weeks I have a solid distance learning plan that focuses on visual journals. Luckily, if we continue to teach and learn from home, this project can be extended. You can find all my resources, including a presentation, handouts, and more, on my TPT here for free. I also have many how to worksheets on visual journaling you can check out here. You can also continue reading below for the general outline of my plan.
TOPIC: VISUAL JOURNALS & COVID-19
For the first week of distance learning my students are focusing on what this current crisis looks like, by reading information on reputable websites such as the CDC. They then reflect on how this crisis is impacting them, their friends and family. Next, they begin planning out a spread (two facing pages) in their visual journal that sums up their coronavirus experience in one image.
My school is using technology already put in place to support us through distance learning. All assignments are posted to our class Blackbaud page. Completed assignments can be uploaded through the same system. This organizes who submitted which assignment when, without me doing the heavy lifting. In addition, we are using Microsoft Teams as a discussion board and file holder to organize all our documents into one place and as a secondary option for students to access what they need for their assignment.
If you don’t have technology in place to support you, it will take extra work, but it can be done. Google classroom is free and an amazing way to connect with your students in one place. E-mail is another option to at least get assignment sheets and information into your student’s hands (or inbox). They can e-mail you pictures of their visual journal pages that you post to a Flickr or similar page where students can check out each other’s work and comment on them. If you haven’t started a class Instagram yet, now is the time! This could be your online gallery of work and community space. Worse case scenario, you could mail packets out, although not ideal, it is an option if it’s feasible for you (heaven knows we need to be taken care of too. Make sure you take care of you!)
At the end of the first week my students only have to submit their reflection sheet and start brainstorming designs for their visual journal spread. I want us all to take baby steps at the beginning so we don’t burn out by the end. I am taking the less is more approach, while still giving my students the opportunity to express themselves.
At the end of the second week they will submit a photograph of their completed visual journal page to me. My students will be graded on all submitted work, not every school is, but grades are great motivation to work, so I am thankful for that.
VISUAL JOURNAL SUPPLIES & HOW TO
To complete this project students can use materials typically found at home to create beautiful works of art. Included in my free packet is a list of supplies they can creatively use they may not think of as art supplies. Below is a basic list to get you started:
- Used hardback book
- A computer to find images and a printer to print images
- Paper bags
- Wrapping paper
Because my students are already a couple of months into our visual journal project, we work on them every Friday at school, they have already been introduced to collaging, mixed media, and examples of visual journals and techniques. If you are starting from scratch, send them here to read through how tos or have them Google visual journal or altered books for ideas. Send the visual journal presentation in my free pack. Have the students take the reigns in their art making and find inspiration on their own. The internet provides almost limitless access to tutorials, information, and tips, encourage them to use it.
As your students work on their spreads don’t be afraid to create your own. Video your process, share what your reaction to coronavirus is. Be vulnerable with your students because we are all vulnerable right now. Although my school has prohibited video conferencing of any kind with students, due to the inability to oversee actions and to be free of liability of any inappropriate or poor conduct, I can share videos of me working. Although we aren’t in the classroom together, I believe hearing my voice my instill a sense of regularity into this process.
As we navigate through this unprecedented time, if we continue to be out of school I plan to post a list of visual journal prompts students can select from and create visual journal pages about. I will check in with their progress at least once a week, and have new spreads due every two weeks.
Your distance learning may look completely different from mine, but I hope this at least provides ideas to get you started. It’s overwhelming to change everything we have been trained to do, but we can do it and we can do it together.
OTHER DISTANCE LEARNING IDEAS
If you teach elementary school, middle school, or photography classes I have been working overtime to get distance learning packs put together for you! Read below for more information.
My retired art teacher mom and I created a distance learning pack for K-5 with projects designed specifically with the abilities and needs of each individual grade level in mind. Each lesson pack includes presentations, assignment sheets to help the parents and students, and step by step instructions through demonstration videos and handouts.
I have adapted my traditional artist trading card project into a distance learning focused one that includes a mail trading session between students. I know students miss each other and writing letters, creating art, and keeping in touch with something they can physically touch can make a huge difference. Check this lesson out here.
My coworker and I have put together four photography focused distance learning packs for you. One is a free pack that includes prompts for students to explore while at home. Two lesson packs focus on setting up and taking pictures at home through constructed landscapes indoors and a social commentary on the COVID-19 crisis. The fourth lesson takes an art historical approach looking at photographs that have changed the world. These packs could cover your class for the rest of the semester if needed.
In addition, I have two art history lessons up on prehistoric art. One is designed for upper elementary and young middle schoolers, while the other is designed for late middle and high schoolers. Art history is just as important to art making and could be a good solution to art distance learning for you.
Check my distance learning category on TPT and follow me to stay up to date with new products I get posted!
Ya’ll I miss my classroom, my students, my routine. Before this all I wanted was one snow day, now I would give anything to be back in my room looking at my kiddo’s facing and talking about art, or whatever topic was important in the teenage world that day.
Good luck to you as you go through this journey. Please reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. Click my social media buttons in the right menu bar to keep in touch.
A week ago I was at the beach (practicing social distancing but in a much more beautiful place) and now am I here. I am here and I am going to do this and soon this will be behind us. Thanks for stopping by!
Check out my most recent visual journal post that explains how to create a tape transfer in a visual journal using packaging tape and printing pictures.